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Full Spectrum Symposium Addresses Diversity in The Music Industry

Deirdre Loughridge moderating discussion with David Turner at Full Spectrum Symposium.

Northeastern University’s Department of Music, in partnership with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, recently hosted the 2018 Full Spectrum Symposium, which explored some of the most pressing and relevant questions about the music industry, from what impacts streaming platforms are having to what qualities it takes to become successful. Other themes included what can be done to increase access and lower barriers to entry for young or aspiring musicians, and what technological innovations are needed to help diverse musical communities thrive. The Symposium explored these questions with innovative thinkers and practitioners in music and technology industries.

Musicians’ Roundtable with Erin Barra of Beats by Girlz

Deirdre Loughridge, CAMD Assistant Professor, Musicology and Ethnomusicology, spearheaded the organization and implementation of the event. In her opening remarks she emphasized that it is especially important to think about these industry questions in their broader social, cultural, and technological context.

“We have a rapidly changing ecosystem for music creation and consumption,” she said, but at the same time “we have all-too-slow moving institutions and biases that create an uneven playing field for people based on things like gender, sexuality, and race.”

She noted that this connection puts us at a moment of opportunity for creating a more diverse and inclusive future for the music industries and music technology.

Musicians’ Roundtable with Evan Greer

A number of experienced voices from the music industry joined the Full Spectrum Symposium. The speakers were culture writer David Turner, musicians DJ Rekha, Evan Greer, and Erin Barra, music tech CEO Kelly Hiser, and our own Northeastern faculty David Herlihy, Rebekah Moore, and Seth Mulliken. You can read more about the fantastic speakers, who spoke on matters ranging from racial diversity to gender equality to LGBTQ representation, here on the Symposium’s website.

This wide range of voices and professional experiences allowed students to truly understand what issue are facing the industry and how we can work to change them.

Musicians’ Roundtable with DJ Rekha

Music Industry Leadership graduate student Paula Aciego particularly enjoyed the discussion on Kelly Hiser’s company Rabble, which helps public libraries create an online platform to publish hundreds of albums, mainly from local artists, along with artist profiles, poster collections and more.

“My main takeaway from this event is the importance of embracing new technologies and incorporate them into our business model while looking for ways to compensate all parties fairly, especially regarding streaming services,” Paula explained.

The end of Loughridge’s remarks were particularly poignant as to why Northeastern has made it a priority to increase diversity.

“One of the special things about being at Northeastern is that we’re not here just to learn how to play the game. We’re learning when, why and how to rewrite the rules, but with a sense of responsibility as global citizens, valuing sustainability, community, creativity, diversity and inclusion,” she explained.

The platform that Northeastern provides is key to growing the conversation and leading a better way forward. In order for people to understand that there are massive under-representations in the industry, you need a place to speak those truths and work to change them.

Professor Loughridge added that it is not just providing a platform that is needed, but also making sure people are heard.

“As musicians and music lovers, we have honed a skill – listening – that is essential for understanding how our actions impact others in the world,” she concluded.

To learn more about the Full Spectrum initiative, please click here.